What even is a ‘Hierophant’?
This is a question I’ve been asked a few times now. Well, to quote from Wikipedia:
A hierophant is a person who brings religious congregants into the presence of that which is deemed holy.
A hierophant is an interpreter of sacred mysteries and arcane principles.
In the Rider Waite Tarot deck and similar decks, “The Hierophant” […] represents conformity to social standards, or a deference to the established social moral order.
Hmm. What can we deduce from this? Two things:
1. Don’t look up tarot card meanings on Wikipedia. Because there is no one way to define a tarot card and when people present their interpretations, it’s nice to have a little discussion/exploration of how they got there, rather than a single sentence.
2. It’s time to reinvent The Hierophant. So many people struggle with this card, it’s really time we took a look at how it can be interpreted in modern readings with/for people who don’t identify with the papal or religious connotations so often presented.
Religion does not play a large role in my life.
I don’t knowingly enter (much less be ‘gathered into’) a holy place, I am not part of any congregation, and I don’t subscribe to the doctrines of any pope-like ‘leader’. So to me, read according to the brief ideas suggested above, The Hierophant becomes a card of oppressive ideologies which have no bearing on my life.
So what do I make of The Hierophant when she pops up in my readings?
It’s about roots. About knowing where we’ve come from.
Yes, this can mean tradition, but that doesn’t have to be bad. The world spins forwards, but it’s so important to know what happened yesterday, last week, last year, last century. The world got to where it is today by going through changes – it’s okay to understand these changes. It is worthwhile to hear the stories of the past and learn from the successes, failures and experiences of our predecessors.
The Hierophant, from the Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Piu Mun Law (surely one of The Lord of The Rings‘ Ents?)
Instead of thinking of The Hierophant as a stuffy, religious figure, imagine that they are one of your heroes.
Who do you admire? Who has had an incredible life that inspires you? Who has made a difference, or seen incredible (or awful) things?
It’s time to listen.
When survivors tell of their time in concentration camps
When you read the autobiography of a social activist
When your grandparents tell you about growing up with no money
When you see an exhibition about the suffrage movement
When you take a night class in social history
…these are all expressions of The Hierophant.
Images of The Hierophant vary, but one symbol many have in common is a key:
That’s significant. (Of course!) A key suggests unlocking, opening a door, a box, something intriguing.
Look for the key when you draw this card – the thing that will help you unlock your dilemma. It might be a person, a book, a story buried deep in your memory.
Instead of thinking ‘ugh – oppressive’ when The Hierophant comes up in your readings, think ‘what can this person teach me? What lessons can I learn?’ Or try ‘what do I need to know about the past to better understand the here and now?’
I’m a 30-something writer, artist, tarot reader, and perpetual explorer of the space between thought, feeling, and action.
I believe that spirituality and ritual are for everybody. I’m about the journey, in all of its messy, non-linear, chaotic iterations. I am excited by anticapitalist business and living with my whole entire self present. I use tarot cards to bring forth hidden truth, and ritual to affirm my commitment, over and over, to my ever-shifting path.